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Cancer Care

Am I At Risk for Thyroid Cancer?

Am I At Risk for Thyroid Cancer?


Researchers have found a few risk factors that make you more likely to develop thyroid cancer. You are at higher risk if you agree with any of the following bolded statements.

I am between ages 25 and 65.

Thyroid cancer can occur at any age, but if you are in this age group, you have a slightly increased risk. Most people with thyroid cancer are age 45 or older.

I am a woman.

If you are female, you have three times the risk of developing thyroid cancer compared to males.

I have a family history of thyroid cancer.

If thyroid cancer runs in your family, you are at an increased risk of developing it yourself.

I have a family history of colon growths.

A small number of people with a family history of  multiple growths on the inside of their colon or rectum (familial polyposis) are at risk of developing papillary thyroid cancer.

I have a goiter. or someone in my family has or has had a goiter. 

A goiter is an enlarged thyroid. It is a sign of thyroid disease. If you have had a goiter or a family history of thyroid disease, you may be at an increased risk for thyroid cancer.

I have an iodine deficiency.

According to the American Cancer Society, if you have a diet low in the mineral iodine, you are at an increased risk for thyroid cancer. Iodine helps your thyroid produce certain hormones that are important for healthy growth and development. In the United States, iodine deficiency is rare because iodine is added to most table salt.

I was exposed to radiation as a child.

If you had radiation to your throat area as a child, you may be at a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer. In the past, doctors used radiation to treat acne, swollen tonsils, and other childhood conditions. Today, doctors use radiation more sparingly, but  still use it to treat cancer.

I was exposed to nuclear fallout.

If you were exposed to nuclear fallout, from power plant accidents or nuclear weapons, you may be at an increased risk for  thyroid cancer. People who lived near the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986 have shown higher rates of thyroid cancer.

You may have none of these risk factors and still get thyroid cancer. Or, you may have some of these risk factors and never develop thyroid cancer. In most cases, doctors do not know the exact cause of thyroid cancer.

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